The WatchersLynn Russell Chadwick, British, (November 24, 1914–April 25, 2003)
San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California (December 27, 2002 - )
Human Presence: Works from the Museum's Collection
Lynn Chadwick played a major role in defining British postwar sculpture by infusing a tragic view into the modern humanist tradition established by artists such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, not only in response to the traumatic events of World War II, but also to the impending pressures of technology on the human body. Chadwick was influenced by the Art Brut movement, which returned to a neo-primitive representation of human and animal forms to express the fragility of the human spirit, and by the existential philosophies of Jean-Paul Sartre and Erich Fromm that give shape and meaning to collective despair.
Imitating the body's skeleton, muscle, and skin structure, Chadwick built his work using a linear armature, onto which he applied modeled forms and a highly textured surface layer. His work conveys the human condition in the information age as an uneasy binary between the animal and the mechanical, so that his anthropomorphic beings seem simultaneously human, robotic, and beastly. The television-shaped heads on some of his figurative works suggest the artist's uncertainty about the affects of the new technologies on the human body.
The force that lies behind the energy of Chadwick's work is often understood to express Carl Jung's notion of the collective unconscious. His figures, with their abstracted heads, bulky torsos, and skinny legs, represent the archetypal urban man and woman, and individuality is de-emphasized. In his Watchers series the idea of a group is brought into his work; however, at the same time the tension between the figures emphasizes a sense of isolation. The seemingly still members of the group exhibit much tension and energy while maintaining complete stillness and silence. By conveying the primal and existential simultaneously, his sculptures portray a noir vision of humanity.
Last Updated: 9/13/2017
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